Mackenzie Daly had to have mixed emotions. The Mattituck High School girls basketball team had reached the Southeast Region Class B final for a second year in a row and Daly was there. The thing was, she was sitting on the bench in street clothes with a clipboard in her hand, keeping statistics, not playing, which she would have preferred.
Daly was injured last month in a scrimmage against Sayville. She was trying to break a trap when she tripped. “I went airborne and I fell straight on my left knee,” she said.
The area around Daly’s left kneecap swelled up, but she still played the remainder of the scrimmage. It wasn’t until later that the junior realized the injury was more serious than she thought. An MRI revealed the presence of hematomas under the kneecap that cannot be drained, she said.
Unable to bend her knee, Daly was forced to sit out Mattituck’s final five playoff games, including its 62-37 loss to Irvington in the regional final Thursday night at SUNY/Old Westbury.
“If I could bend it I would be out there,” Daly, who is undergoing physical therapy and taking a pain reliever, said before the game. “Mentally, it’s just really tough,” she continued. “We all worked so hard all season and you play for this. You play for this moment.”
Mattituck coach Steve Van Dood said: “It’s tough. She’s a big part of why we’re here.”
It was impressive that Mattituck won three playoff games without its top point guard. That would be crippling for some teams.
In Daly’s absence, Mattituck’s ballhandling was done by committee, with Mackenzie Hoeg, Emily Mowdy and Liz Dwyer chipping in.
“For the team to step up says a lot about how they feel about her,” Van Dood said. “The girls love her.”
Daly said she is impressed, but not surprised by how the team has done without her. “Different girls step up every night,” she said.
In the 19 games she played this season, Daly averaged 5.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 1.9 assists per game. Van Dood said he saw improvement in her game, but she didn’t sound content with her play.
“After some self-reflection, I’m honestly not that happy with how I played this season,” she said. “I think I could have done more. I think I could have shot the ball more.”
Daly did a lot, though, and was an important part of Mattituck’s press defense.
“We needed a ballhandler bad, and she would have helped us a lot,” junior guard Jane DiGregorio said. “I wish she was there personally because I’m no ballhandler. I wish she was out there with us. You don’t realize how much she did for us on the court. She was our point guard, but she also was like a playmaker. We miss that.”
Sitting on the bench, Daly has gotten a different perspective of the game, listening while Van Dood and assistant coach Kay Rolle discuss strategy.
Could she see herself becoming a coach one day?
“Yeah, I would love to do that,” she said.
Of course, that would be after her playing days are over. In the meantime, Daly has been getting good grades on her work as a statistician.
Said Dwyer, “I know she must hate it, but she does take great stats.”
* Getting over the hump
Corinne Reda had dreaded this moment, although she knew it would inevitably come. It’s just that Mattituck’s lone senior would have preferred her final high school game to be at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy where the state final four will be played March 17-19.
Reda played her best ball in the playoffs, said Steve Van Dood. “Corinne does a lot for us,” he said.
Against Irvington, she had seven points and 10 rebounds.
Getting over this regional final hump isn’t easy. Mattituck reached a regional final last year for the first time and was beaten soundly by a hot-shooting Marlboro team, 74-61.
“It just shows that we need to work harder,” Reda said. “We need to get over it. Everyone needs to shoot better, box out more, stop the turnovers.”
Jane DiGregorio said, “These teams are playing a game of basketball that I don’t think we’re up to as of right now with this team.”
Liz Dwyer said, “We played our hearts out, but this wasn’t our year.”
* Poll numbers
Mattituck can take some solace in that it lost to the second-ranked Class B team in the state in Irvington, according to the New York State Sportswriters Association’s rankings of March 7. Mattituck was ranked 13th.
Photo caption: Mattituck’s injured first-string point guard, Mackenzie Daly, spent the last five games sitting on the bench, keeping statistics. (Credit: Garret Meade)